Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1976 Oct 14 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [917/622-29]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2675
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing
[column 622]

INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY

Q1. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Industry in relation to the Government's industrial strategy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

Yes. There is close coordination between my right hon. Friends on this and all other matters of common concern.

Mr. Latham

In the interests of economic and industrial recovery, will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of saying that he has no intention of adopting the alternative Queen's Speech proposed by Transport House?

The Prime Minister

I should be happy to receive proposals for the Queen's Speech from anyone, including the hon. Gentleman if he cares to put some forward, and in due course, when the Speech appears, we shall invite the House to support it in the terms that it will have been proposed by, I hope, myself.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend ask his colleagues to give urgent consideration to the effectiveness or otherwise of regional economic investment incentives, because they seem to have been less effective than they should have been? Surely it is time for alternative and more effective measures.

The Prime Minister

I think that the regional policy on which we all embarked after the war has had a considerable measure of success in lessening the differences among the various areas but some of the macro weapons employed in the 1960s have become a little outdated, which is one reason why the selective assistance given under the Industry Act and in other ways applies the aid more where it is required. I think that we should continue to pursue that method.

Mr. Mayhew

When will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the considerations that led him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to turn their backs [column 623]on the nationalisation of banks and insurance companies should lead them to turn their backs on the nationalisation of the aircraft industry?

The Prime Minister

That is not my view, nor that of the party I represent, of the way in which the aircraft industries of the world are moving. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman might catch up with the latter part of the twentieth century in due course.

Economic Policy

Q2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister when next he intends to make a ministerial broadcast on Government economic policy.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) on 27th July.

Mr. Roberts

Before my right hon. Friend makes another of his very effective ministerial broadcasts, will he look at the need to close some of the gaps between the Government's policies and the expectations of the TUC under the social contract? In the light of that, will he also look again at some of the social implications of the public expenditure cuts, at some of the possibilities of extending import controls, and at areas of social advance such as earlier retirement, which could be introduced at minimal cost?

The Prime Minister

The social contract will remain the basis of the Government's policy and we shall endeavour to carry it out as far as we can. On the question of import controls, I have received a very interesting document today, sent to me jointly by the TUC and the CBI—and coming as it does from those two stables harnessed together it clearly needs very careful consideration.

Mr. Heffer

They are all Tribunites now.

The Prime Minister

I am arranging for that careful consideration to be undertaken. As regards the expectations of our people, I remind my hon. Friend and the House of what I said, among other things, in my first broadcast as Prime Minister. I looked it up because I [column 624]thought that there might be some reference to it today. I said that

“despite the measures of the last 12 months, we are still not earning the standard of life we are enjoying.”

Hon. Members

Reading.

The Prime Minister

I am quoting:

“There's no soft option. I don't promise you any real easement for some time to come. There can be no lasting improvement in your living standards until we can achieve it without going deeper and deeper into debt as a nation.”

That is what I said in my very first broadcast, and I have continued to say it—[Hon. Members: “What are you doing about it?” ] We are taking action. If Opposition Members will forget their prejudices for a moment and read the introduction to “The Right Approach” , they will see that what is required is not only action from the Government, but action taken by both sides of industry to reverse what “The Right Approach” called the long-standing decline. This is a national problem and Opposition Members should treat it as such.

Mr. David Steel

On Tuesday the Prime Minister said that internal differences in the Labour Party were matters entirely for him and nothing to do with the rest of us. Is he aware that that cannot be the case, because the differences in the Government party are highly damaging to the national interest and to confidence abroad? When he next broadcasts, will he tell the country how long he is prepared to preside over this private and unacceptable coalition while the value of our currency plummets?

The Prime Minister

I cannot think of any better coalition that could do the job. The thought of the Liberals and the Conservatives attempting against the recent policy announcements by the Conservative Party to try to achieve such a coalition would divide the country hopelessly in two. Unless we make the approach which I outlined in my first broadcast, and which I have repeated today, I believe that we shall not be able to enlarge the manufacturing base of our nation and thus ensure that we obtain the social benefits that we require.

Mr. MacFarquhar

When he makes his next broadcast, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister give his views on the [column 625]connection between education and economic performance, and will he confirm the reports that he is about to make far-reaching suggestions about changes in our national system that would involve the training of more engineers?

The Prime Minister

More mileage and column inches have been given to a speech I have not yet made than were given to many speeches I have made. That should be a lesson to all us publicists. Unfortunately, I did not have the wit to start this one.

I think that there is a case for opening a national debate on these matters. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ] I am taking advantage of the opening of an extension to Ruskin College, Oxford, which has contributed a great deal to the trade union and Labour movement, to discuss matters which are of great importance to industry and also in a wider sense.

Mrs. Thatcher

But is James Callaghanthe Prime Minister aware that we agree with a number of his speeches? The trouble is that his actions do not match them. Surely he is aware that the facts show we are facing the most serious economic crisis in the post-war period and that there is a total lack of confidence in sterling. That is where his actions have led. What actions does he now propose to take to restore confidence?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady will find in due course that confidence is a plant that grows very slowly. There is no short-term action that can be taken to repair confidence—which, alas, now extends to the future prospects of the British industrial system. I believe that the pessimism is overdone. As I go round the country visiting factories and seeing the work that is being done I believe that there is a considerable future, because there is a growing realism on both sides of industry in our industrial system that it is possible to overcome the problems that have led to what “The Right Approach” calls the long-standing decline. If we worked on that aspect, confidence would be restored. However, I promise the right hon. Lady that no gimmicks or short-term cuts will achieve our aim.

Mrs. Thatcher

But there appears to be realism everywhere except in Her [column 626]Majesty's Government. Why does the Prime Minister not now follow the policies of these Governments which have a surplus to lend us in order to bail us out?

The Prime Minister

The policies of various Governments depend on their internal circumstances. For example, the United States does not depend on foreign trade to the extent that we do. Her foreign trade is an addition to her gross internal product. The United Kingdom depends on exports, and it is in that respect that we must push ourselves much further and faster. Obviously, in answering a supplementary question I cannot instance other countries and indicate all the differences. But I believe that as the industrial strategy has been agreed by both sides of industry—and I hope that it will not receive discouragement from the Opposition, even if they cannot find anything helpful to say—that is the best way to march on the long road back.

CBI AND TUC

Q3. Mr. Ovenden

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to meet the TUC.

Q7. Mr. Robinson

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the CBI.

Q8. Mr. Wrigglesworth

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the CBI.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) on 12th October.

Mr. Ovenden

When my right hon. Friend meets the TUC, what reassurance will he give that the Government will continue to meet their side of the social contract? Is he aware that the faith of ordinary working people in the contract is taking a bit of a bashing in the face of rising food prices, high unemployment, and now a high level of mortgage interest rates? Will he re-examine the Government's policy on food subsidies and see whether he can do something to show that we are playing our part in keeping prices down?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, we shall consider any of these matters. There is no doubt that the consequences of the [column 627]common agricultural policy are at present helping to keep food prices down, but that is an adventitious factor that will not persist for ever. What is needed is a long-term reform of the CAP, and that is what we intend to pursue.

Mr. Churchill

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall last year's invitation by the TUC to the former KGB boss, Mr. Alexander Shelepin? Will he say whether he shares the enthusiasm of the National Executive Committee of his own party for the forthcoming visit as an official guest of the Labour Party of Mr. Borris Pomonaryov, who is charged with supervising the furtherance of the interests of Soviet imperialism in countries outside the Eastern bloc, or will the right hon. Gentleman choose this moment to dissociate himself and the British Government from that invitation?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that will come up at my meeting with the TUC and CBI. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) in his professional capacity has considerable experience of interviewing a number of gentlemen in other countries who are not entirely devoted to the democratic cause. I think that in pursuit of that professional exercise the hon. Gentleman has managed to preserve his purity undefiled. I promise him that my friends on the National Executive Committee are as tough as he is in that regard.

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has met Mr. Pomonaryov. If not, no doubt the hon. Gentleman will soon be seeking an interview with him. I shall be ready to see Mr. Pomonaryov personally. I would welcome discussion with him on some aspects of Soviet policy, including detente and other matters concerning the agreement signed in Helsinki. It is foolish to suggest that we should cut ourselves off from that kind of exchange when we know what view we take.

Mr. Robinson

When my right hon. Friend next meets the CBI, will he discuss the desirability, and indeed the possibility, of reinstating enlarged advanced project schemes with a view to reinvigorating industrial investment, which unfortunately is now flagging?

The Prime Minister

I shall. I have already had discussions with the CBI about advancing investment. Some of [column 628]the schemes introduced by the Government are tailor made for this purpose and, as I have pointed out in the House before, some industries have already taken advantage of them and we have secured very considerable investment. I shall continue to draw this to the attention of the CBI and ask it to continue to use the schemes to their full effect.

Mr. McCrindle

When he next speaks to the TUC, will the Prime Minister discuss the Government's proposal to require that 50 per cent. of the representation on occupational pension schemes should come from trade unions? Will he communicate to the TUC that members of these schemes take a very strong view against this proposal? Is he aware that, although they are not against participation—indeed, they are quite in favour of it—they see no reason why there should be a 50 per cent. representation from trade unions?

The Prime Minister

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's view, but I am not able to depart from the policy already put forward.

Mr. Greville Janner

If my right hon. Friend sees Pomonaryov, will he express to him the deep concern of Members on both sides of the House about the treatment by the Soviet authorities of their minority groups in general and the Jewish minority in particular? As Pomonaryov will be leading a group of academicians from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, will my right hon. Friend protest in particular at the treatment of Academician Levich, who has a place at University College, Oxford, and who has been harassed and persecuted for so long?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that I shall be able to raise with Mr. Pomonaryov some of the consequences flowing from the Helsinki Agreement. I suggest to the House that if these discussions are held against a background of demonstrations and protests, we are unlikely to get a rational discussion going. I would much prefer to have the opportunity of quiet talks with these members of the Praesidium than to have a series of demonstrations taking place so that we spend all our time talking about the demonstrations and very little time discussing the real issues at stake.

Mr. Powell

Reverting to an earlier supplementary question on the cost of [column 629]food, would it not be of great assistance and satisfaction to the TUC and the public generally if this country were able to buy food at advantageous prices in world markets?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I think it would. It was always one of the weaknesses of our entry into the Community that the CAP does not suit our requirements. That is why we must pursue in the Community with some, though not all, other member countries a policy of getting substantial reforms over a period. I believe that we shall be able to do that.